Posts Tagged With: trophy hunting

Making Rhinos Count in a World of Indifference

Rampant corruption, low employment and high poverty are the unfortunate circumstances surrounding South Africa, the primary home of Earth’s last rhinos. Add to that a high Asian demand for their horns, and it equates to the perfect storm for their demise.

South Africa has lost approximately 1600 black and white rhinos in 2015 (unconfirmed by the government at this point). With poaching spreading like a plague, the death toll has risen dramatically each year, with this year topping all previous ones.

DEA poach statsIn a world where an animal’s horn is worth more than cocaine or gold, the solution to their survival is not an easy one. The answer is a multi-faceted effort of anti-poaching strategies to combat the “here and now”, legal change to make the consequence more dire than the greed, and education and awareness to secure the future.

For our group here in the United States, we support those “on the ground” making a difference in these areas. As an entity, it takes raising not just dollars, but consciousness to do that. We are the facilitators of change, quietly meandering through social media making the desperate plea for the plight of the rhino, and the effects on the communities surrounding them. Trying to educate a population of people lost in reality television and “selfies” is a daunting obstacle all unto itself. Yet, once we do break through – low and behold people DO care!

But how much will awareness help?

Through our blog we told the story of the “Last Male Standing”, focusing on the desperate and solemn life of Sudan, one of the three very last Northern White Rhinos on the Earth. It was circulated by the Dodo, then CNN and the Washington Post; resulting in much-needed donations to Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya; the home of the Northern Whites, as well as the largest black rhino sanctuary in east Africa.

As a result, we were also able to successfully raise funding for them for a rhino audit of ALL rhinos on the conservancy, as well as providing half a dozen GPS devices.

Northern whites in sunset tony karumba AFP

Northern White Rhinos at Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya. Photo: Tony Karumba

Since then, there have been funds raised to pour into research to perpetuate the last of their genes. Looking ahead, some Southern White Rhinos were sent from South Africa to California where scientists hope to successfully implant Northern White Rhinos embryos into their Southern counterparts.

Another case where “awareness” played an integral role is that of Cecil the lion. The wave of concern and outrage over the lion’s shady demise prompted the world to take notice, in fact it was the top most searched topic on the internet in all of 2015.

The public outcry created pressure on politicians and corporations that was impossible to ignore. The results?

  • France has banned lion trophy imports and Britain will do so in 2017   
  • 40 airlines have taken a stand to stop the transport of animal trophies.
  • In November, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Global Anti-Poaching Act to enhance and support protection to combat wildlife trafficking.
  • Five months after his death, the U.S. has finally listed lions on the Endangered Species list, protecting them and making it more difficult to bring lion trophies back to the country.
cecil 2010

                                Cecil in 2010

The ripple effect is still being felt. There have been petitions to shipping giants FedEx and UPS to stop the transport of wildlife trophies. The hometown of the hunter who killed Cecil, even run ads on the sides of their buses in memory of the lion.

Conservation groups saw a welcomed increase in donations to their projects for endangered big cats. Even groups like ours saw a surge of interest and activity, which reflects not just concern in the trophy hunting controversy or big cats, but in wildlife preservation in general.

How far will it go, how long will Cecil’s memory last? Are people still following the story and life of Sudan? And when is reality too much “doom and gloom” for the world to handle?

We exist in a time when evidence points toward the “sixth mass extinction” on Earth. With 50% of all our wildlife wiped out in the last forty years, and currently 150-200 species of plants and animals going extinct EVERY day, we are facing the largest decimation of species since the dinosaurs were wiped out 65 million years ago. So it seems impossible to ever feel like we’re doing enough, let alone too much.


 

 

In September of 2015, our organization, Fight for Rhinos, made the rounds from Hoedspruit in the northeastern part of South Africa to Kruger National Park in the east, and down to the south on the Eastern Cape. Throughout our time spent with field guides, trackers, veterinary staff, reserve managers, anti-poaching units, and ecologists we left no stone unturned in our quest for answers from those with firsthand experience of the poaching crisis; always searching for that “holy grail” solution.

SA trip map

Our recent journey through South Africa.

We interviewed and spoke casually with taxi drivers, airport employees, and housekeeping staff to gain better understanding on the feelings and attitude of poaching within their country.

The conclusion? They’re burnt out. With a giant ad in the Johannesburg airport, anti-poaching signs on fences, and almost daily mentions of poaching incidents in the news; people are becoming desensitized to it all.

In the midst of a corrupt government, racial and social tensions, and with an unemployment rate at a staggering 26%; the country seems to be tapped out of sympathy for its dwindling pachyderms.

DSCF9149

Mom and baby white rhinos grazing in Kruger National Park. photo: Fight for Rhinos

So being a conservationist, trying to save a species from the brink of extinction in 2016, suddenly one is faced with more than just biology and ecology as the stumbling blocks. Politics, poverty, economics and apathy are daunting obstacles in this race against time.

Can we save South Africa from their “conservation fatigue”? Does what the rest of us do in our own corners of the world have effect on them? Applying public pressure can and does effect change. It strengthens laws and perhaps most importantly, changes attitudes. Only time will tell if it’s all fast enough to have the necessary impact on our planet’s wildlife.

Either way, we’re left with no choice but to try. After all, who among us is willing to live with that regret if we don’t?

This article was posted in the recent online magazine Live Encounters

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Cecil’s Final Roar

The killing of Cecil the Lion demonstrated the reality of “Big Five” trophy hunting, and struck a chord with the world’s conscious.

The fact is that trophy hunting is not only legal, but encouraged in countries as a means of making money. As the adage goes “Money Talks”.

With public criticism and disdain for the hunts,  money is undoubtedly the bottom line with the recent decisions of seven major airlines, who declared they will no longer transport animal parts on their flights.  No airline wants to be seen as complicit in the practice.

This is an example of how public opinion and pressure can fuel change. YOUR voice, YOUR choices do have an impact.

This is a major victory, and we commend the following airlines for taking a stand:

thank you airlines

Photo: Lobby for Lions

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Victory for Kratos!

kratos rhinoThis is Kratos. Gorgeous, feisty, healthy-the perfect genes for breeding. But the conservancy he resides in deemed him aggressive, a troublemaker. Their solution-sell him in a trophy hunt.

The problem is that the conservancy can only legally hunt impalas and warthog. This violation has been the subject of a heated, urgent court battle this week, as the hunt was scheduled for the end of the week.

Fortunately justice and common sense prevailed, and he has been spared.

“…At the end of the day, none of this should have been necessary. Nature Conservation should not have granted a permit; a hunter shouldn’t have wanted to pay R1.2m to have one photo taken of him standing next to a slaughtered rhino. However, there are people out there who operate to a different agenda to normal, decent human beings and fortunately this time we have managed to foil them from achieving their objectives. Although we have won this battle, this is not an end to it and I will continue to fight against the needless slaughter of our wildlife.”  —Tim Fenner, the owner of Kichaka Luxury Lodge, who launched the urgent interdict. 

Thank you to OSCAP for keeping us up to date on the proceedings!

 

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Make it Count

The latest  photo causing a stir on the internet is an elite cheerleader with a “Let’s go, Let’s win!” smile plastered to her face. Except instead of pom-pons in her hand she’d holding a gun and standing over the body of a rhino.

She is one of many well-to-do Americans and Europeans whose hobby consists of bloodshed of African wildlife: trophy hunting. The $200 million dollar industry operates in 14 African countries, with South Africa being the largest.

Although disturbing to look at, it is not illegal. The current global laws in the US and Europe allow trophies to be imported into the country, following some guidelines.

Yet over 150,000 people have signed a petition to have her photos removed. Before her it was Melissa Bachman and Corey Knowlton. Assuming the photos ARE removed, what does that change?

Although public concern is welcome, why are we singling these people out? Why give them the attention? They are participating in a Legal activity. Outrage and energy are being misdirected.

Sign petitions and write letters to change laws, not people. If a fraction of those signatures on a photo removal could be directed to the US Fish and Wildlife Service, it COULD make an impact.

Director Daniel M Ashe: Ban Endangered African Animal Trophy Imports From Namibia

Ban Breeding, Trading, and Trophy Hunting of Wildlife in South Africa

Ban Lion Trophy Imports into the US

Globally United Against Trophies into EU and US (on facebook)

Let’s focus and work together to stop the machine, not just it’s parts.

sos

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Equal Opportunity Genocide

Thai poaching  ring-leader Chumlong Lemtongthai

Thai poaching leader-Chumlong Lemtongth

Dawie Groenewald, Sariette Groenewald

Dawie & Sariette Groenewald, convicted rhino poachers from South Africa.

rhino with US flag

American trophy hunters.

Kenyan poachers

Kenyan poachers set to appear in Nairobi court.

Russian trophy hunter

Russian trophy hunter Rashid Sardarov.

Our rhinos are dying. In Kenya and Sumatra, in Zimbabwe and Assam…killed by poachers, by trophy hunters…from Thailand, South Africa, America, Kenya, Russia, and yes…China.

It is a fact that China and Vietnam are the driving force, the demand for our rhinos’ horn. The frustration of this can become overwhelming at times, I admittedly find myself thinking…”China again?!”.  But it’s easy to confuse China for the Chinese, a.k.a. the forest for the trees. Not All Chinese use rhino horn any more than All Americans are trophy hunters.

Racism and bias are intolerable. There is no time or space for this in the fight to save our rhinos. We must set aside our differences, ignore our borders, and unite to save them. For just as many people globally who seek to destroy them, there are just as many of us across the planet who fight to protect them.

Remember-we’re in this together.

 

 

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Pay to Play

There are two sides to every story, and two sides to the lives of animals in the tourism industry. Many of the baby animals we find so irresistibly adorable and pettable, live a life or torment.

petting lion cub 2

This is the canned hunting industry.

The opportunity to pet, hold, bottle feed, and play with cute orphan lion cubs sounds irresistible to animal lovers.

Captive lion cub 2

Farmed cubs often show signs of stress like hair falling out and diarrhea.

Well-meaning visitors pay big bucks for the privilege of “helping rear motherless cubs.”  Many of these people are led to believe they are playing a part in conservation efforts, that these little tykes will live to be returned to the savanna one day.

But the reality is much darker. Shortly after birth, the babies are taken from their mothers, causing extreme stress to the cubs and the mother alike. This is done to facilitate immediate breeding again for the mother.

Unlike in the wild when lionesses produce a litter every 2-3 years, in the lion “industry”, they are forced to produce 2-3 litters a year!

Once the “cute factor” has worn off and they become a bit larger, they either move on to the next stage of the tourism industry-walking with tourists, or go straight to the breeding stage to perpetuate the cycle.

canned hunting overcrowded

Overcrowded enclosure on captive lion farm.

Finally, the females are used for continuous breeding (no different from puppy mills). The males are catalogued-their photos taken and displayed in a brochure or in an online list for hunters to choose from. They spend their final moments in small, crowded enclosures awaiting their death.

Is this conservation? Is this how the most majestic creature in Africa meant to live?

With lion numbers in severe decline from habitat loss, disease, and hunting, they should be afforded protection, not treated as a commodity.

Please note, there ARE genuine sanctuaries dedicated to the protection and conservation of the species. NONE of them allow the perpetuating of the species for human entertainment (i.e. petting, picture-taking, hunting).

Please read, sign and share the following petition: President Zuma: Banned Canned Hunting

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Corey Who?

Ever since the Dallas Safari Clubs auction to hunt a black rhino in Namibia, one man has become the face of this tragedy. His lust for the hunt has earned him both contempt from conservation advocates, and defense from hunters. Although he bears disdain for his action, he is one of many “thrill of the kill” hunters, who deserves no further mention.

Blaming Knowlton is like blaming a single roach for an infestation. They only come because the conditions are right. And they will continue animal trophiesto come unless the environment is changed.

We mustn’t lose focus on the big picture. Namibia offered this rhino up to be hunted, the US has no qualms of the trophy being brought back, and the Dallas Safari Club encourages it. This is  barbaric, unsettling, but legal.

The big concern and goal is to stop the practice of trophy hunting altogether. How?

In some ways this seems as grand and daunting as saying “I want world peace”. There is not a one step answer.  But it’s something that is necessary if our endangered species are to survive. It requires cooperation from all countries, one law at a time.

United States

Here in the US, it is LEGAL to buy and sell ivory within the country, AND to import ivory and horn via hunting trophies But the tide may be changing.

June 2013 President Obama gave an executive order to combat wildlife poaching. Recognizing the international importance on not only the effects on wildlife, but on national security, as illegal wildlife trafficking is within the top five world crime.

November 2013 The US Fish and Wildlife Service destroyed 6 tons of it’s ivory stockpile. 25 years worth of illegal seizures were pulverized in order to send a message of zero tolerance to poachers. As the second largest ivory market (behind China), this is an important step in the countries’ stance on wildlife conservation.

crushed ivory

US Fish and Wildlife Service involved in Denver, Colarado’s ivory crush.

January 2014 The state of New York held a meeting to discuss banning ivory within the state. Assemblyman Bob Sweeney wrote a letter imploring the Department of Conservation to prohibit the sale of ivory in New York.

“New York state must close the market that is driving the elephant to extinction and helping finance terrorism,” Sweeney said.

February 2014 The state of Hawaii just announced the House Committee unanimously advanced a bill to outlaw the sale of all ivory products in the state.

If this country is indeed on it’s way to a full ban of ivory, trophy hunting WILL be affected. As there would be no elephant trophies allowed into the country. And in this matter,  ivory is no different than horn. The same notion applies: preservation of wildlife and the poaching connection to international terrorism.

If the great thrill hunters cannot boast of their hunt with trophies on their walls, perhaps they will be less inclined to do it at all.

Sign and share this petition by the International Fund for Animal Welfare to urge the US Fish and Wildlife Service to stop allowing permits to import endangered species. Protect Black Rhinos from Trophy Hunting & the petition by Animal Advocates to the Secretary of the Interior Prevent Dallas Safari Club from Importing Rhino Trophies

rhino and baby at watering hole

 

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Shades of Gray

rhino auction protest

Protesters at the Dallas Safari Club January 12th.

The Dallas Safari Club has auctioned off the life of a black rhino for $350,000.

In light of this recent atrocity, trophy hunting has come to the forefront of the social consciousness. The elitist hobby of killing for the thrill  has been going on since the 19th century, with nearly 18,000 participants a year.

Today, with the black rhino population in serious decline, each life is crucial to the species. It is a wonder that anyone could place higher value on their death, than their life. Endangered species are labeled as such to provide them extra levels of protection. Hunting them to “save” them flies in the face of logic.

Yet, some argue that hunting helps conservation. What do they mean by that?

Countries condone trophy hunting for a couple of reasons:
1. to make money – the money brought in from the hunting fee goes toward community conservation
2. to help control wildlife populations – keeping wildlife at reasonable numbers for the health of the species
3. to rid areas of “problem” animals –  i.e. elephants or cape buffalo that destroy crops

elephant huntedThe hunters pay fees, differing amounts depending on the size of the game.  Allegedly, these fees and the resulting meat are given to the communities.

With human/wildlife conflict a growing concern, many countries permit trophy hunting where only older males or repeated crop or cattle raiders are targeted. This provides a win-win for the village: the pest animal is removed and they receive monetary support.

Is it working? How much money is the community receiving? And how do they spend the money?

According to David Hulme, author and conservationist, its working well in terms of conservation.  Zimbabwe is having high conservation success, primarily because of the hunting community.

“Here in Zimbabwe hunters have been on the frontline of the poaching wars. They were at the forefront of massive rhino evacuation exercises, moving them from the Zambezi valley to safer areas. Pretty much the only rhino left in Zimbabwe are in the large conservancies, owned and operated by hunters.
Hunters here in Zim  also organized and carried out the first ever live adult elephant translocation exercise, moving whole herds from drought stricken Gonarezhou national park to the conservancies.”

The Save Conservancy in Zimbabwe, an area Hulme is quite familiar with, is one such example.

The conservancy used to be denuded cattle land and is now the largest privately owned conservation area in the world, at 1 million acres. In 1990 there were a handful of lions there, now there are hundreds, 20 odd rhino, now there are 130, 20 odd elephants now there are 1500, no buffalo now there are thousands.. “said Hulme.

big five james jean

Big Five by: James Jean

And what about the community? The Zimbabwe government is currently backing a project that allows trophy hunting of elephants, warthogs, giraffes, buffaloes and impalas. The project is well established, with the hunting fees being used to build a school and a clinic. This added income is especially helpful to the people during the dry season, when crops and livestock are not viable.

It’s hard to argue with the wildlife growth or community benefit. It’s been working in Zimbabwe for years. Yet what seems to be helpful in one area is a disaster in another.

South Africa remains the largest trophy hunting industry on the continent.  Frustratingly, they are one of only two countries to allow the legal hunting of rhinos. Of course with the rhino being endangered and this being home to the remaining 90% of them, this is a nightmare.

rhino awareness graffiti by Faktor

Rhino awareness graffiti in S.A. by: Faktor

Encouraging  legal hunting, while trying to crack down on illegal hunting (poaching) seems difficult, if not impossible. Rich foreigners with cash in hand stepping into impoverished communities make it all too easy for corruption to flourish.  In the end, it comes down to money. The communities need it, the hunters have it, and the animals are the product to be bought and sold.

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Thank you David Hulme for reminding me the world is more than black and white.
R.I.P.

david hulme 3

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Lifestyles of the Rich and Heartless

Trophy hunting is big business. The industry employs ranchers, outfitters, professional hunters, gun manufacturers, and taxidermists alike. People with time, money and a propensity for killing, keep the business going at the rate of 200 million a year.

rhino hunt55% of trophy hunters bring home an annual salary over $100,000. This makes it easy for them to afford the hunt. Here’s a breakdown of one camp’s cost for an average hunt:
*$450 per night for accommodations
*$200 per night for non-hunting day(s)
*$550 per gun per day
*$14,500 for a buffalo or $22,000 for a lion (trophy fees vary according to animal)
*Air transport, taxidermy, trophy packing and shipping EXTRA

SCIIn addition some hunters have group memberships ($1500 membership fee) to elite clubs such as Safari Club International. (These clubs sponsor killing competitions. There are awards given to the most animals slaughtered.  and they even keep a record book listing names of who killed what animal, when.)

Good news if you make a living out of dead animals, bad news for the environment, for the safari/tourism industry, and the animals.

Each year tens of thousands of animals are killed by US hunters in foreign countries. The body parts are legally imported back into the US. (While the Endangered Species Act only allows importation of endangered species for scientific research, there are loopholes allowing trophy imports.)

Pro-trophy hunters argue this is GOOD for conservation. Their stance is that the money spent on the hunt is poured back into the community for conservation efforts.

In reality, research published by the International Council by Game and Wildlife Conservation (a pro-hunting group), shows only 3% of revenue from hunts goes back to the communities.

In contrast, ecotourism is a $77 billion global industry; employing tour operators, guides, lodge and restaurant employees, vehicle drivers, park guards and people who benefit from the sale of souvenirs.

elephant tourismConservation is about protecting a species and environment. Killing seems a complete contradiction. Serious about conserving?  Put the money toward donations or a safari trip where the only shooting is with a camera.

Taking conservation seriously is the only way to protect the rhino, lion, and elephant among others, is to ban hunting of endangered species all together, at least until trade in parts is under control. With poaching so widespread, it is too difficult to distinguish so-called legal horn or tusk from illegal.

The Safari Club International protects the hunter via lobbying the US Congress to weaken the Endangered Species Act and petitioning the Fish and Wildlife Service not to list certain species as threatened or endangered.

But with the Endangered Species Act open to thrill seeking hunter lobbyists, who protects the animals?

disregard for species cartoon

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The “Con” in Conservation

Lions live behind fences and cages, waiting to be killed.

Lions await their fate at breeding farms.

Recently SABC: Special Assignment aired an expose on lion breeding facilities in South Africa.

The lioness’ are forced to breed more repetitively, not unlike puppy mills. They make money by tempting tourists to pay for being a “caregiver” to the cubs, leading them to believe they are helping with conservation of the lion. In reality these same cubs who become accustomed to people, are sold to the highest bidder to be shot and killed.

This is an eye-opening, must-see for everyone concerned with animal conservation.

THE CON IN CONSERVATION

Cubs start their lives off being doted on by well-meaning tourists.

Cubs start their lives off being doted on by well-meaning tourists.

Ultimately they are all shot and killed by humans who they do not fear.

Ultimately they are all shot and killed by humans who they do not fear.

Avaaz: Please sign the petition to ban the Lion trade in South Africa

To Donate: Four Paws: South Africa…saving lions from canned hunts

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